Dioxins are environmental pollutants that stay in the body for long periods of time because they can accumulate in fat tissue. They are mainly by-products of combustion and industrial processes. Long-term exposure to dioxins has been suspected to have a host of toxicities, causing health issues such as cancer and impairment of the immune system and the developing nervous system.
In the body, dioxin readily forms a complex with the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), a transcription factor protein whose real function has yet to be clarified. The manifestations of dioxin toxicities require AhR. It was previously shown that adult rodents born to mice exposed to dioxins during pregnancy display cognitive and behavioral abnormalities. However, the underlying mechanisms of such manifestations have remained unclear.
In search of an answer, researchers centered at University of Tsukuba studied the possible effects of excessive activation of AhR signaling--a phenomenon thought to mimic the exposure of AhR to dioxins--on neurodevelopmental processes in mice, such as cellular migration and neurite growth. Their work was recently published in Scientific Reports.